Market Research in Lima – Part 1

While visiting family in Peru, I (Lindsay) have had the unique opportunity to conduct primary market research on hunger and malnutrition Lima. I did most of my research in the district of Villa Maria Triunfo (VMT), one of the “pueblo jovenes” (newer settlements) of Lima. Like many cities in Latin America, and throughout the developing world, VMT is populated primarily by people who have come from more rural communities with the hope of higher wages , better education for their kids and perhaps a more modern way of life.

Chacon

Chacon

I interviewed a number of residents of a neighbhorhood called Chacon on eating habits and perceptions of nutritional foods in order to better understand local needs and wants. One of my first observations, is that Peruvians, even in these slums, can not be generally charactized as “food insecure.” According to the Food Security Portal, 5% of Peru’s children are considered undernourished (as opposed to 21% in Kenya and 48% in India.) However, the rise of global food prices and the distance of Lima from most agriculture in Peru, has made it difficult for people to consisently provide nutrious meals for their families.

Meet Elva

Elva and her sibings

Elva and her siblings

One interviewee, Elva is a 29-year old mother of three. Elva cooks three meals a day for her family 6 days a week. For breakfast, she serves white bread with butter and hot chocolate or oatmeal (served as a hot beverage). Sometimes the kids eat fruit mid-morning, other times they drink a soda or some crackers from a nearby store. Lunch is the most important meal of the day in Peru. Elva cooks many traditional meals such as fish and lentils or aji de gallina (chicken in cheese sauces served with potatoes and rice). She also makes vegetable and rice soup to accompany most lunces. She says she serves few vegatables because she kids don’t like them,  but knows that they are healthy and admits the family should eat more of them. Dinner usually consists of left overs, although sometimes she fries up some chicken to eat with rice instead. The family eats out once a week, and it is almost always, a Limeño favorite – roast chicken served with french fries and fried rice.

Like most of my interviewees, Elva says that the definition of a healthy meal is one that is eaten at home. This is perhaps the biggest takeaway from my all my interviews – a solution to increasing access to healthy food in Peru would be better served as increasing access to healthy ingredients. Street food is abundant in Peru, and by my own observations, some of it is healthy! However, mothers are accustomed to cooking for their families and believe that what is prepared at home is more nutritious that what is prepared elsewhere. Any attempt to improve eating habits in Lima, must take into account this cultural perception.

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